Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What are your dreams?

 What are your dreams?

Are they for fast cars? A luxury home? Or maybe to graduate college? What about starting a family? We think of what makes us happy; what we would like our lives to be like in the distant future. No matter how much or how little we may have, there is always that thirst to achieve something greater. While many dream of material things, our borrowers envision the success of their families and members of their communities. They may have very little, but they work tirelessly so that their children can have an education and access to a quality of life that they never had.

Day three brought us to Iloilo, home to 22 of our Filipino borrowers. Luckily for us, our chaperone, Sister Cori, was also a native of Iloilo city. She enthusiastically gave us a first-hand look into to a wide variety of people, cultural sites and historical monuments. 

We visited her home and got acquainted with her mother and family. Beautifully decorated, her home exuded culture, tradition and perseverance. The walls were lined with pictures of her many siblings, proudly adorned in their graduation attire. While her father earned his income as a lawyer, her mother stayed at home and cared for all twelve children. These parents dedicated their lives to ensuring that their children would flourish – and so they did!

Followed by visits to churches and other cultural beacons, we travelled to Colegio de San Jose, where our borrowers eagerly awaited us. One of the major drawbacks of micro-finance is that it is difficult to measure the impact of the work performed. How do we measure the transformation of the lives in the communities we offer micro-credit to? How can we be certain that the services we are providing are truly worthwhile? Those and so many other questions were answered in a single PowerPoint presentation (Yes, our borrowers prepared a group presentation worthy of exposure on a college campus!). We were truly amazed at the progress these borrowers had made with their enterprises since the approval of their loans in December last year. What began as a mere idea in 2009 became the GLOBE that we know and love today – a program that is now evidently uplifting communities and changing lives.

As shown in their presentation, these borrowers transcended the model of individual entrepreneurship. Castaway on a remote island of Taloto-an, just off the coast of Iloilo, our borrowers formed cooperatives, established group enterprises and reaped rewards exceeding our expectations. They conducted regular meetings and created a natural cohesion that motivated each business to success. With a limited command of the English language, they presented their cases with confidence, sprinkling their local dialect in between to our delight. For example, consider the case of the Sitio Guinmesahan Store. Have a look at the transformation as a result of GLOBE:

In a joint – cooperative, these borrowers combined their efforts in order to relocate and improve their store. The store is now represented by ten cooperative members, who each enjoy a capital share of 500 Philippine Pesos each – a scene reminiscent of what we learn in the Finance textbooks. Their store now generates approximately 800-1200 Pesos a day and meetings are regularly conducted by officers to ensure smooth operation of the micro-enterprise.

How about the Sitio Bago-Isi store, can you “spot the difference” between these images?

Like (most) stories we appreciate, this one also comes with a happy ending. We sat at the Colegio and witnessed the impact of GLOBE being multiplied within this community. These borrowers managed to find innovative ways to use the returns from their enterprises to help their communities – just as they promised to do within their loan applications. They even offered microfinance services of their own – giving a far greater number of people the means and hope provided by GLOBE. In one example of a joint loan, totaling, 90,000 Pesos, the Sari-Sari (Convenience) store was expanded and can now accommodate a greater variety and volume of items. Considering the long run growth of the store, the shopkeeper even opted not to have a formal salary, devoting a greater amount of funds to the business. More importantly, the three borrowers designated 50,000 Pesos towards their very own micro-finance fund. This fund is used to provide loan assistance to their 12 cooperative members. Isn’t that amazing? It appears that GLOBE is spreading within greater communities, serving an even greater population as if on its own.

At the conclusion of the formal presentation, our meeting was far from complete. We engaged each other, asking questions, sharing insights and stimulating discussion. Curious, I asked them, “What are your dreams? What do you dream about?” At the time, I anticipated responses relating to having a thriving enterprise, expanding profits, or alleviating poverty for themselves. Instead, they responded with, “To see my children with a good education,” “To make sure my family can get out of poverty,” “So that our children will be happy.” Our borrowers were much more concerned with uplifting future generations with wise investments that looking after their own benefits. They were planting seeds – seeds that promise to create successful enterprises, proud parents and grandparents.

We left the Colegio with a sense of pride and accomplishment. GLOBE was igniting change in communities in ways we had never imagined. We could not help but anticipate the next meeting with a great sense of optimism.

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